Late collapse leaves Roscommon marooned

Ryan still buoyant over qualifiers Connacht SFC quarter-final  Galway ………………….. 2-16 Roscommon …………….. 0-6 The final scoreline shows a margin of 16 points between these old rivals at Pearse Stadium last Sunday and while Galway were the deserved winners of the game, the Tribesmen scored 2-4 in the final ten minutes to pull away from a Roscommon team that fell apart after they had played reasonably well up to the 50th minute or so.   After the disastrous league campaign which ended in relegation after a number of heavy defeats and the loss of John Maughan as manager, this latest setback means that 2008 has been a year to forget so far for Roscommon’s senior footballers. Hopefully they can regroup in time for the qualifiers in eight and a half weeks’ time.   Roscommon had recovered from a bad start to come within two points at half-time, but it was always going to be an uphill struggle against this Galway team. The task was made almost impossible after the harsh sending off of centre half-back Gary Cox after only 8 minutes of the second half for two yellow card offences. The first yellow card he received (after only 3 minutes) was one of the softest I have ever seen given in a championship match. It was awarded when the Roscommon man and the man he was marking, Padraig Joyce, were simply tussling and pulling eachother’s jersies off the ball. A warning to both players would have been more than enough. Later in the game it was to prove a very costly yellow card.   I suppose it was too much to hope that Michael Ryan – a young rookie manager – would be able to prepare a team to beat Galway in their own backyard inside a period of three weeks – and so it proved.   However I would be appealing to Roscommon fans to be patient and support the efforts of Ryan and his backroom team as they prepare for the qualifiers, bearing in mind the time that he has to reorganise his players. If Roscommon could get a reasonable (and maybe even a home) draw, all might not yet be lost for 2008.   A sixteen-point defeat at the hands of Galway hurts and the manner of the Roscommon collapse in the final ten minutes was not easy to watch, but if the players stay together and give it everything over the next few weeks, pride can be restored to the jersey.   It wasn’t that Galway were fantastic either. For long stretches in the game they were very ordinary indeed and they were rescued by a brilliant display from their hard-working corner-forward Matthew Clancy (who was by far the best player on view), the industry of Barry Cullinane and Kieran Fitzgerald, the skill of young Paul Conroy and the cuteness of Padraig Joyce.    Roscommon made a poor start, played their best football in the second quarter and then after the sending off of Gary Cox, their challenge fizzled out and Galway motored on for what was a very flattering win for them in the end.  The worst-kept secret in the GAA world saw Roscommon line out with Gary Cox at centre half-back, Mark O’Carroll at midfield, Karol Mannion at full-forward and Donie Shine replacing the injured Ger Heneghan at corner-forward, with David Keenan coming into the full-back line to replace Anthony McDermott.   First to score was Michael Meehan from a ’45 and less than a minute later Meehan was on target again when David Hoey lost possession in the Roscommon half-back line. Roscommon then missed a goal chance in the 10th minute when Karol Mannion and Senan Kilbride combined to send Johnny Dunning racing through, but the Clann na nGael man dragged his shot across the goalmouth and wide. It was a goal chance that Roscommon could ill-afford to miss and two minutes later Padraig Joyce lofted over a nice point from play from 25 metres. Three minutes later last year’s minor star Paul Conroy kicked over a 25-metre free after a foul on Matthew Clancy.   Clancy was picking up almost every breaking ball in the middle of the field and Roscommon were in trouble in that area. A minute later Conroy kicked another free after a foul on Padraig Joyce by Gary Cox (a black card for Gary after his earlier yellow) and the score after 16 minutes was Galway 0-5 Roscommon 0-1.   Roscommon came into the proceedings after that and Seamus O’Neill and Karol Mannion began to get a grip on the midfield exchanges. David O’Gara came on as a sub for Mark O’Carroll after 20 minutes and his arrival co-incided with a big improvement from Roscommon. However it must be said that Mark O’Carroll was very unlucky to have been substituted so early as there were others who could have gone off before him.    In the 21st minute Senan Kilbride (Roscommon’s best player by some distance) kicked a mighty Roscommon point after a good pass from Gary Cox and two minutes later Kilbride kicked an even better point after Seamus O’Neill found the Brigids’ man with a good pass.   Roscommon could have had a goal in the 23rd minute but Cathal Cregg’s shot was well saved by Galway goalkeeper Paul Doherty and in a follow-up incident Donie Shine was given a yellow card for a late tackle on Doherty. Roscommon were getting plenty of ball around the middle third now and after 31 minutes, Kilbride kicked his third point from play after good work from Conor Devanney – now the Galway lead was only two.   Matthew Clancy scored an inspirational point for the home side in the 33rd minute and a minute into injury-time Karol Mannion scored a very good Roscommon point to leave only two between the teams at the break, Galway 0-6 Roscommon 0-4.   It had been a poor first half in terms of quality football but Roscommon were well in the hunt and the supporters were happy at half-time that their side were still in contention. However Roscommon needed to come out with all guns blazing in the second half but it was Galway who did so.   Joyce rattled over a point in the 4th minute from 25 metres and a minute later the superb Clancy ran through the Roscommon defence to land another point from 20 metres and when Michael Meehan kicked a huge 50-metre free in the 6th minute Galway led again by five points. Then in the 8th minute came a crucial incident that was to end the game as a contest.    Gary Cox clashed with Mark Lydon in the middle of the field. That incident was probably deserving of a yellow card for the Roscommon man and referee McQuillan duly flashed the ‘carta bui’ and Gary was off. However it was the ridiculous first yellow card that was the controversial one and in truth the St.  Faithleach’s man was very unlucky to have been shown the red card at all. It was made to look even more unfair a few minutes later when Galway’s Cullinane (who had got a yellow earlier) kicked Cathal Cregg, yet only received a ‘black book’ for that offence. It wouldn’t have affected the result of the game but there was a clear advantage for Galway after those incidents.   After the sending off, the Roscommon challenge collapsed. Paul Conroy and Clancy added points before Ger Heneghan (a half-time sub for Donie Shine) made it 12 points to 6 in the 19th minute with a close-in free. But it was all downhill for Roscommon now as Galway swept forward. Clancy scored a 24th minute goal after good work from Declan Meehan and Fiachra Breathnach and Conroy (2) and Meehan piled on the scores and the embarrassment for Roscommon.    The final nail in the coffin arrived in injury-time when Breathnach set up sub Niall Coleman for a well-taken goal that was scored in near-silence as the majority of the crowd were well on their way home at that stage.   Roscommon have eight and a half weeks to prepare for the qualifiers and I was most impressed with the dignity and determination shown by Michael Ryan in the wake of this heavy defeat. He is determined that Roscommon will get something out of 2008 and maybe when he has a decent amount of time to prepare for the qualifiers he will be able to end what has been a terrible 2008 so far with a defiant gesture on the field of play. I admire his enthusiasm. He will leave no stone unturned to improve Roscommon’s football fortunes before this championship is over. In the meantime last Sunday in Pearse Stadium was surely a day we will all want to forget in a hurry. Roscommon: Geoffrey Claffey; Paddy O’Connor, Seanie McDermott (capt.),  David Keenan; John Rogers, Gary Cox, David Hoey; Seamus O’Neill, Mark O’ Carroll; Conor Devanney, Cathal Cregg, Johnny Dunning; Senan Kilbride (0-3), Karol Mannion (0-1), Donie Shine. Subs: David O’Gara for O’Carroll (20 minutes), Ger Heneghan (0-2) for Shine (half-time), Derek Connelllan for Dunning (50 minutes), Michael Finneran for Mannion (64 minutes).  Galway: Paul Doherty; Kieran Fitzgerald, Finian Hanley, Gareth Bradshaw; Declan Meehan, Niall Coyne, Gary Sice; Barry Cullinane, Mark Lydon; Damien Dunleavy, Padraig Joyce (capt., 0-2), Paul Conroy (0-6); Matthew Clancy (1-3), Michael Meehan (0-5), Fiachra Breathnach. Subs: Cormac Bane for Dunleavy (half-time), Nicky Joyce for Clancy (60 mins.), Darren Mullahy for Sice (63 mins.), Niall Coleman (1-0) for Cullinane (66 mins.), Cullinane for Lydon (71 mins.). Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan).